MPs have asserted that the Six Nations rugby tournament must remain free to air, amidst a contracted television deal reassuring free to air availability of the event until at least 2025. It should be noted, however, that the tournament is not included in group A, a listing of sporting events protected for full live coverage.
The Welsh Affairs Committee parliamentarians argue for the broadcasting of live sports to strive towards accommodating the widest possible audience. As the UK government regulates the aforementioned list, it clarified no current plans to reevaluate the list, but mentioned a consideration of rule-change for digital platforms to potentially heighten access to such events.
Earlier this month, a government minister articulated that adjustments to the protected events list were possible upon a call from the Senedd. Rising apprehensions about the potential disadvantages of streaming were also voiced by several cross-party MPs. Their concerns revolve around short-term financial inflations failing to penetrate grassroots, resulting in a long-term negative impact on sport awareness and participation.
These concerns are particularly articulated for Welsh rugby union, which the MPs suggest needs to “rediscover its soul and aim to reach the maximum number of people in Wales.” The MPs strongly urge the government to categorize Six Nations under the group A listed events, ensuring its terrestrial TV status.
As part of a broad-based inquiry in the broadcasting concerns in Wales, the MPs also addressed financial repercussions of providing the widest possible access to viewers while securing sufficient revenue for sports. Online streaming giant, Amazon Prime Video, contested a negative impact on viewership by streaming sports events, affirming millions have accessed rugby via their platform. The report stressed the significance of broadcasting revenue for Welsh sports, particularly rugby and football, accounting for substantial portions of the respective sport entities’ income.
Another significant concern examined by the MPs was the Welsh language broadcasting, emphasizing its importance against a changing media backdrop and advocating for greater financial stability for S4C. They urge the government to ensure the review includes safeguarding Welsh-language broadcasting, with a spokesperson from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport mirroring this sentiment.
In response, S4C expressed their gratitude for the committee’s support endorsing the significance of visibility for their work in the shifting broadcasting landscape. However, the potentially impending shift to digital platforms and the revenue-versus-reach conflict in live sports broadcasting require comprehensive critical evaluation and effective policy measures. In conclusion, ensuring widespread free-to-air coverage of key sporting events like the Six Nations rugby tournament remains a contested debate.